Harbinger Leader Insights discusses various decision-making subjects that can result in a failure or success of a transformation or change project. Siri Maldonado, Director Marketing & Communications, highlights the importance of letting go of perfection in leadership positions to drive efficiencies and lead their teams to drive change.
It’s no secret that change initiatives take a long time, and within this time frame many unforeseen changes also take place like changes to leadership or project sponsors. Changes in leadership for a business transformation can happen for many reasons – the individual may have decided to move on to a new opportunity externally, they may be needed for other internal projects, the project requirements may have changed, and the list goes on.
In a perfect world, the leadership change would have a minimal impact on the progress of the transformation. Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case and while there are various factors contributing to this, an important piece does involve how the new leader manages and guides the team. In my opinion, the best way to do this is to ‘let go of perfection’.
How does one do this do you ask?
You can start by acknowledging the pain of the past. The people that have been living it want and will appreciate your candor. Giving them anything less will only cause distrust which will be hard to turnaround. They know exactly what’s been happening and want you to be genuine and transparent in what you share with them. This will also help to build trust which is critical during times of change.
What’s more, confront the skepticism. This is a natural part of the change curve for people, especially if a project has been drawn out or there have been several changes in project leadership. Use this as an opportunity to work collaboratively with the team to address the issues head on by finding solutions or revisiting the project scope. Once this is completed, it’s important to regularly ask for feedback and complete a pulse check to ensure you are progressing well against the plan.
It’s also important to be visible. Start with town halls or huddle tours by introducing yourself and hearing from the people on the ground. This is a great way to develop relationships and gain that trust. Another great way to embed yourself within the business is to do job shadows where you’ll get firsthand look into what it’s like for other members of the team. This will demonstrate your commitment to gaining a stronger understanding of the ins and outs of the new project you are leading, helping you make sound decisions when needed. It also helps to combat the “they have no idea what my job entails” comments which we’ve heard time and time again.
Employees also appreciate leaders that are human. Contrary to popular belief…ahem Krista…we are not all robots! Humans make mistakes, have lives outside of work and are flawed. Share your past experiences from companies or teams you have worked with to demonstrate that mistakes are acceptable, however it’s important to find ways to move forward. When working with leaders, I have always advised to let people have a peek into your personal life – don’t be afraid to share what you’ve done over the weekend or stories about your pets. Let people understand your path to success hasn’t always been perfect and explain how you have learned from your past experiences to get where you are today. Allowing others into your life beyond work lets people know that you are more than just their leader and can go incredibly far in driving engagement. I would however caution that there must be a fine balance here. Leaders should not overshare and be conscious of the fact that they are there to manage people through the change and to do this there needs to be a level of authority and respect.
Additionally, we know as a leader it can also be hard to accept help. I know this isn’t easy, but the most successful leaders are able to delegate and achieve success through collaboration. Leverage the skillset of the members on your team to give yourself the space to make the tough calls and decisions to move the project forward. What’s more is that accepting help is especially important given the size and pace that change happens today. And if you add the influence of technology which has resulted in the need for decisions to be made faster, leaders simply don’t have the capacity or the time to be in the weeds.
Finally, many business transformations today involve technology. These projects are typically the most costly and are incredibly technical. The good news is that being a strong leader doesn’t require you to be an expert on the system or change. The focus instead should be placed on how you can engage people. Let the experts and tech-savvy individuals do what they do best without interference, make sure you have the right people in the right roles and most importantly keep them inspired.
Being a leader today isn’t what it used to be. People want to be able to connect with their leader, and I truly feel that letting go of perfection helps to establish stronger relationships between employees and leaders. It’s funny how much things have evolved. Perfection is not seen in the same light anymore, in fact diversity and failures are now celebrated. Many of the most successful companies and leaders have embraced this shift. It’s now time for others to follow suit.
Siri Maldonado Director of Marketing & Communications Toronto